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    Once a gnat was invited to join a political focus group.
    At first the gnat wasn’t sure it wanted to accept the invitation, but it was told by the focus-group organizer that this is how democracy works today: a small group comes together and decides what should be important for everybody else to discuss.    
    “Okay,” the gnat responded. “I think I get it.”
    “Then let’s start, shall we?” the organizer asked the entire gathering of focus gnats. “The first question for all of you tonight is, ‘What are the most important social concerns of the day?’”
    The gnat hadn’t really thought about this question before. And it didn’t have much time to think about it now, either, as the hum of answers immediately arose from other gnats around the room that clearly believed they had. So distracting did the hum quickly become that it proved difficult to hear oneself think, let alone understand what others thought.
    Apparently having anticipated this eventuality, the focus-group organizer called out, “May I have your attention, please? May I have your attention? Perhaps it would help if we formed smaller breakout groups and came to some measure of limited consensus first.” 
    “Excuse me, but what’s a ‘consensus’?” the gnat asked timidly.
    “Well,” the organizer began, looking here and there for the gnat before giving up and answering to the room in general, “it’s sort of like everybody agreeing with everybody else in general, even if you don’t actually agree on anything specific.”
    “Sounds like a contradiction,” some gnat in the back of the room observed.
    “Not really,” the organizer responded. “These focus groups usually find they can agree on something by the end, even if they only ‘agree to disagree,’ as the saying goes.”
    Somewhat encouraged by these words, our gnat turned to the gnats nearest to it, and together they went around and around on the question. About half the time they appeared to be moving closer together, but about half the time they appeared to be moving further apart. The same looked to be true of groups of gnats elsewhere in the room. 
    “What do you suppose the other groups are saying?” the gnat wondered. Other members of its own group must be asking themselves the same question, for soon they were all wandering away in different directions to listen in on what other groups had to say. Those groups too, it turned out, had a tendency to break up after a short period of time and stray off in all directions. 
    The whole room was beginning to seem a blur, and when the organizer looked at the time and hurriedly called all the focus gnats back together, one of them spoke up for the rest and said, “We’re having some trouble reaching that consensus you mentioned. We need a little more information about the issues involved.”
    “My instructions state that I’m not supposed to provide any information,” came the response from the organizer. “Your opinions are all that’s needed. That’s how a focus group works, you see.”
    At this point the organizer turned to our gnat and said, “Now, let’s do a quick roundup of opinions, shall we?”
    The gnat, suddenly feeling all eyes upon it, stammered, “I’m sorry, I’m still not sure what I think. Is that okay, or not?”